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CHINESE CULTURE

Chinese Dialects


There are many Chinese dialects in China. It is hard to guess how many dialects exist, but they can be roughly classified into one of the seven large groups, i.e., Putonghua (Mandarin), Gan, Kejia (Hakka), Min, Wu, Xiang and Yue (Cantonese). Each language group contains a large number of dialects. These are the Chinese languages spoken mostly by the Han people, which represent about 92 percent of the total population.

The dialects from the seven groups are quite different. For example, a Mandarin speaker in northern China usually understands little Cantonese, but a non-Mandarin speaker usually can speak some Mandarin with a strong accent. This is largely because Mandarin has been the official national language since 1913. Mandarin or Putonghua is mainly based on the Beijing dialect. Despite the large differences among Chinese dialects, there is one thing in common for them -- they all share the same writing system based on Chinese characters.